Pennsylvania State Police have seized "suspected illegal gambling devices" from five restaurants in Dauphin and Cumberland counties.
The "skill game" machines seized by the Pennsylvania State Police on Monday are found commonly throughout Lancaster County.
Games of skill machines – which look nearly identical to slot machines and which are often operating under the brand “Pennsylvania Skill” – have been in legal limbo as they pop up in bars, convenience stores and fraternal organizations throughout Lancaster County and the rest of Pennsylvania.
A Commonwealth Court ruling last month said games of skill machines are not subject to the Gaming Act but didn't rule out the applicability of prosecution under the state's crimes code.
State Police Communications Director Ryan Tartowski said the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, on Monday seized suspected illegal gambling devices from five Licensed Liquor Establishments operating under Restaurant “R” Licenses in Dauphin and Cumberland Counties.
"The suspected illegal gambling equipment seized includes devices from at least four different manufacturers," Tartowski said. He said no further information would be released, "as investigations are ongoing."
Machines were seized from Gilligan's Bar, which has locations in Dauphin and Cumberland counties, Champions Sports Bar in Highspire and Stadium Club Sports Tavern in Highspire, according to an emergency court petition filed by Pace-O-Matic, the manufacturer and developer of software skill-based video game machines distributed throughout the state. It is unclear which Gilligan's location was raided. Two other locations, which have not yet been identified, were also raided.
During Happy Hour on Monday, state police officers came into Champions Sports Bar to retrieve two Pennsylvania Skill games.
“They just came in and yanked them out, without any kind of real explanation,” Jason Naugle, the general manager at Champions, said. “A lot of regulars were disappointed they weren’t here.”
Naugle said he also wants police to explain why Champions and a few other bars in the area were targeted.
“If it was illegal, why didn’t they pull them out of every other bar?” he asked.
Both Sens. Ryan Aument, R-Mount Joy, and Scott Martin are co-sponsors of legislation pending in the Senate Judiciary committee that would ban skill games.
“It seems like they’re spreading like wildfire,” Martin said in June about the skill games.
In a statement, former Pennsylvania congressman Tom Marino, who now works at Pace-O-Matic, said “Though we applaud the Pennsylvania State Police for seizing games that are clearly illegal and have no judicial support, we are disheartened in the fact that the Pennsylvania State Police has used this opportunity to continue to harass Pennsylvania Skill who have the only adjudicated/legal game in the State."
Marino said the "Pennsylvania State Police have desperately tried to tie our legal, court adjudicated Pennsylvania Skill games to those manufacturers operating illegal gambling devices." He said he was confident the company would be successful in court.